Leadership, Self-limiting Beliefs, and the Cost of Fear

Belief (n): something believed; an opinion or conviction: a belief that the earth is flat.

Fear (n): a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, or pain — whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid

“Something believed.” Is the earth flat? This was something once believed.


A “belief” is easily defined — something we believe to be true. What’s great is that we can deepen positive beliefs, adopt new ones and change our current ones. The challenge is identifying and managing our negative beliefs — those that are self-limiting. Self-limiting beliefs prevent us from realizing our full potential. They limit our self view. They create fear, and they stifle our true expression of our development as leaders.

In my business experience, I’ve found seven common self-limiting beliefs:
•    I can’t trust people
•    I am not good enough
•    Conflict is bad
•    My family never had money so neither will I
•    I need to be right
•    I am too old
•    I am not smart enough

Where do these negative voices and thoughts come from? When did they start? How do they impact our strategic growth and focus?

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

The above words from Franklin Delano Roosevelt are perhaps the most patriotic words evoked in the chaos of the 20th century. Proclaimed during the president’s first inaugural address (amidst the reality of a devastating economy and lack of confidence), the words are well remembered, and often quoted. But they are seldom embraced and not fully understood.

The fear that we experience can be paralyzing and corrosive. It prevents us from reaching our full potential. It immobilizes us. It keeps us in our comfort zone. And it is entirely based on a story track looping inside our heads.

You have to wonder what these self-limiting beliefs and fears cost us in terms of sales or profits, employee and customer service, strategic planning and business growth, family, relationships, health, sleep and tension. The list can go on and on.

Where do these beliefs come from? How long are we willing to hold onto them? What is the payback we’re getting from holding onto them? How much comfort do we really get from staying in our comfort zone? How can we reframe these thoughts? We need to be committed to asking the right questions.

What questions are you asking yourself?


In his ancient military treatise, “The Art of War,” Sun Tzu says that true leaders stand for the virtues of wisdom, courage and strictness. They understand that true power lies in the ability to turn a negative belief into an uncompromisingly positive one by changing their response to it.

Leaders use not only their minds and bodies, but engage their hearts and souls as well. They have quieted angry and negative internal beliefs by learning how to reframe them. The brain is smart and won’t allow you to immediately transition from “I am not smart enough” to “I am smart enough.” The brain says, “after all these years you expect me to believe that?” But you can reframe these thoughts with a simple “if and/then” formula. Your new belief becomes: “if I am prepared and have stayed current on industry trends, then I will be able to deal with any situation that comes along.”

Ask the right questions, be fearless in facing beliefs that you aren’t necessarily profiting from, and be abundant in how you live and how you lead.

Limiting beliefs cause fear. Fear causes scarcity. Scarcity puts us in survival mode. Survival mode creates voids and paucity in leadership. Lack of leadership creates fear, and allows for the cycle to remain unbroken.

It is our obligation to break that cycle. We are leaders; we are strategic; we understand what leadership entails and the power it holds.

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